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Frank McCracken, Human Resources Director, Principal Connections’ HR Leader of the Month for December 2019


Q. THE CAREER & THE PERSON Describe your career journey and tell us about Frank McCracken the person?

Work is important but not what life is about. For me, my family is the most important aspect of my life, my partner Patricia, my daughter Sarah and all my extended family. They keep you grounded, teach you values and support you in all aspects of life including work. Your work is the better for it.

Aside from my family, sports and particularly tennis has been one of my passions throughout my life. My first job was tennis coaching in Sutton, Blackrock College and Castleknock College. The Irish weather took its toll on me and I moved into financial services, working in Sun Alliance, First National Building Society, First Active, Ulster Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland. In 2018, I changed course while staying within financial services and have taken up the role of Human Resources Director in Walkers law firm based in their Dublin office. Working in Walkers and a partnership led organisation has been refreshing with decision making being super uncomplicated as a result of decisive and clear leadership.

Working in branch banking gave me a grounding in putting the customer at the centre of everything. Without the customer, a business won’t exist and that has always been my personal philosophy. Ultimately, HR only exists because of customers. My roles in HR have involved positions in general HR, training, and more senior roles in organisational development, retail human resources and industrial relations and change management – a real wide variety.

Q. THE COMPANY Describe your current company?

Founded in 1964, Walkers is a global, integrated and market leading financial services law firm. We have offices in 10 different locations worldwide from Cayman, to London to Dubai and Hong Kong. The Dublin office is the second largest office in our Walkers’ global network across the Americas, EMEA and Asia. Walkers provides legal, corporate, compliance and fiduciary services to global corporations, financial institutions, capital markets participants and investment fund managers. Our clients are some of the most innovative firms and institutions across the financial markets.

We develop globally-minded, entrepreneurial lawyers who are experts in their field and committed to client service. Walkers is consistently ranked in the top tier of the leading global legal directories. Recognised for being a ‘dynamic team that is very user friendly’, a regular comment by clients is that Walkers is the “go-to” firm for trusted financial services legal advice and practical solutions.

Q. THE CHALLENGES What do you see as the most important challenges facing HR Leaders today?

Remaining or even becoming relevant is central to HR now and in the future. That means doing the basics well from simple administration, getting people paid correctly, contract production etc. Get the basics wrong and you simply won’t have a license to operate. Too often that is forgotten and technology is the key to this – so get your technology and management information right.

In Ireland, we are at virtual full employment, so the two key challenges are how do you attract employees and how do you retain existing employees. These are business critical challenges and as such are HR challenges. To attract and retain employees, you need to understand the culture of your company and its unique employee proposition. Once you understand that, you can build your plan and most importantly communicate and market your organisation’s unique employee proposition and talent brand.

Q. THE ADVANCES What do you believe the biggest advances in human resources will be over the next five years?

I think that the two advances will continue to be the new generation of people entering the employment market and the ongoing digitisation of HR. It will be interesting to see how organisations will deal with the incoming new generation of employee. Millennials have arrived in the workplace and Gen Z or those born from 1997 onwards are coming soon. Most organisations have adapted somewhat to the millennials but more traditional industries are slower to learn how to adapt – I think the next 5 years will see this change with a more sophisticated approach being taken by all organisations. Management information, recognition systems and work flexibility will be central to this.

Q. THE ADVICE What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

Make yourself marketable – if others want you your own organisation will want you even more. That means keeping your skills up to date, being outward looking, expanding your network and delivering what you say you will deliver.

Q. THE MOTIVATION What keeps you motivated day to day?

I’m fortunate to work in Walkers Global Legal and Professional Services law firm which has created an environment where you can be yourself no matter who you are. That is key for me. Getting decisions made quickly, openness to change, playing to people’s strengths (and not weaknesses as is often the case in organisations) motivates me also. But…..most of all…. THANK YOU and ……..WELL DONE…. goes a long way!

Q. THE ACHIEVEMENT What has been your proudest career achievement to date?

Any achievement tends to happen as a result of being part of a team that depends on each other. I hope that people who have worked for me and with me have grown, developed and progressed well in their careers. In terms of a specific achievement, in my last role we introduced flexible work (home working, flexible start / finish times, part-time) in Ulster Bank which resulted in significantly improved engagement scores and a marked saving in terms of office space usage. 800 staff availed of the option.

Q. THE INSPIRATION Who inspires you professionally?

In a career that has lasted over 30 years, you encounter all manner of leaders be it from the business or within HR. One of my earliest bosses was the Head of Training in First Active. He taught me that life and not just work, is about making yourself better and getting out of your comfort zone. To this leader, learning is a lifelong vocation, and I hope a bit of that philosophy has stayed with me – thanks Karl O’Connor.

Q. THE STAYING CURRENT How do you stay up to date?

While I stay informed through both offline and online reading, I also ensure that I network and keep up to date in my industry and with the latest HR insights by continuously expanding my contacts. I try to meet non HR as much as HR people – it helps you understand business and HR in tandem. As we are a global law firm, I also learn from my international HR colleagues who have a wealth of experience. Also, I like to stretch myself and do something outside my core area of expertise when I can. For example, recently I undertook a Diploma in Project Management and prior to that a Diploma in Mediation.

Q. THE DOWNTIME Tell us about your interests and how you relax?

Spending time with my family ensures that I stay balanced – my partner is a great support and we love to travel (recently we hired a car and drove through the German, Austrian, Slovenian and Italian Alps). We frequently head off to London to visit our daughter who is based in Farringdon and works with LinkedIn. I play tennis regularly with friends in Sutton and while we are pretty competitive, it’s also great fun.
Also, we recently ran a series of mindfulness classes in Walkers and if you get a chance to practice mindfulness, you will quickly realise how effective it is in helping you to stay relaxed and to cope with a busy schedule.

CLOSING COMMENT:

Thank you Frank McCracken for your participation in our HR Leaders Series.


ABOUT WALKERS

Walkers is a leading international law firm advising on the laws of Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Ireland and Jersey. We provide legal, corporate, and fiduciary services to financial institutions, capital markets participants, investment fund managers, and global corporations. From FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 companies to emerging and mid-market entities, Walkers brings a commercial and entrepreneurial approach to our clients’​ legal and business issues while delivering unmatched client service. Walkers Professional Services provides a seamless integration of legal, corporate, fiduciary and compliance services.

Offering a unique global footprint, Walkers has offices in Bermuda*, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, Dubai, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Ireland, Jersey, London and Singapore.

ABOUT PRINCIPAL CONNECTIONS

Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading senior executive search firm and the only Irish Member of Agilium Worldwide Executive Search Group, one the world’s largest, oldest and premier global executive headhunting organisations. Together with our colleagues across 55 Offices in 30 Countries, each year we complete in excess of 1300 Assignments within most Major Industries and Functional Areas.

For many years, Principal Connections has advised on the most influential senior, executive and board appointments that have emerged within Irish business. Organisations of all shapes and sizes from all over Ireland (Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, Belfast etc.) refer to us when it matters most, to solve their most important executive search and leadership consulting and assessment challenges.

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Principal Connections is Ireland’s leading Executive Search Firm and the Irish Office of Agilium Worldwide LLC.

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